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E is for Editing

Letter E“Who can possibly know what I write better than me?”

“The story is great! My wife read the whole thing.”

“I use spell check.”

If you have ever said one of the foregoing, you might need an editor.

Let’s face it: Editors do far more than spell check. Just as the beta team did far more for you than just adulate over your poignant use of alliteration, your editor is the one who is looking at your story with a microscope.

Line Edits

Long considered the bloodiest portion of the editing process, line edits are an absolute necessity. The majority of editors will read your work from the back page to the front, first. They will catch the small things this way. What can you catch in reverse?

True Book Examples:

  • Lyons is not the capital of France.
  • There were no Canadian troops at war in 1953.
  • Gunpowder was invented in 400AD, but was not used for weapons for another 800 years.
  • George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter.
  • Sony did not invent the ereader.

Nitpicky? You betcha. Voracious readers who like your subject are going to know these things. If you have not done your research, chances are if the reader finishes the book, it will be the last one of yours.

After the reverse read, editors read the book the way you intend for readers. Good editors will have the notes from the beta team handy to see if your corrections have created any problems.

  • If you changed your setting midstream, simply correcting the name of the town or place is often insufficient. Subsequent story may be based on inherent qualities of the now-deleted place.
  • If you have non-zombie resurrection issues, your chapters may need to be completely rearranged or large sections may need to be cut for story continuity.
  • If you changed the major battle of your Middle Ages novel to May 4, 1540, to add story line in support of your romance, your timeline is in serious need of help.

Language

With the vast and varied forms of the English language, one of the thing your editor will fish eye very closely is your use and your characters’ use of language. While it may have sounded poetic or amazing when you wrote it, your reader may just see it as weird or inappropriate.

Major issues are:

  • Language beyond the scope of your characters.
    • Children tend not to use polysyllabic words when there is a handy four-letter one.
    • Substituting author education for characters
    • Dialect belied by the character’s background
  • Language for the sake of language.
    • Incorrect usage of words like utilize, nauseous and disinterested
    • Jargon
    • Repetition of ostentatious words
  • Systematic assassination of language
    • Consistent fragments, run on sentences, comma splices, etc.
    • Passive voice
    • Tense shift

None of these errors are stylistic, even if it is your style to commit them. No matter who may have told you it was showing your individuality, it is merely a reason for a reader to never finish your book.

No, not all readers are Grammar Nazis; however, they do expect a modicum of decorum. Even when they cannot tell you what is wrong with a passage, they can tell you it reads like the Google Translate version of spam. Having a Grammar Nazi as an editor is in your (and your book’s) favor.

Copy Edits

Depending on your contract, copy edits may not be a task requiring your response. The very last edit is another reverse read looking only for spelling and punctuation mistakes. By now, at least ten people have read your book. A really good copy editor will find dozens of overlooked objectionable entries:

  • Overabundance or dearth of commas
  • Its/It’s and other common apostrophe mistakes
  • Semicolon usage
  • Spelling errors
  • Subject/verb agreement
  • Hyphenation

If your story editor is also your copy editor, choose a Grammar Nazi. After all, spell check is not an editor.

Spell check is not an editor.

Spell check is not an editor.

Your copy editor is also going to take out all the other “style” you put in the manuscript. Overuse of formatting (italics, bold, underscore) and ellipses are on the chopping block because they assault your readers eyes and intellect. If your language does not support drama, italics will not make the reader imagine it for you. If you mean for the reader to pause to contemplate, skip the ellipse and begin a new chapter.

Necessary

Although you love your manuscript because it is the most effort you have put into writing anything, it needs to be edited by a professional. For all the same reasons your friends are not good choices for beta reading, they are likewise not the best candidates for editing. Seeing every blemish exposed can be difficult for ego. In the end, editing is the maturation process all good books survive.


Has an editor ever pointed out something you completely overlooked? What is your funniest edit? How many times was your book edited before press?

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© Red Dwyer 2013
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41 Comments

  1. The trouble is your brain knows what you’ve been working with, but your eyes forget, and so Beta readers.

    I know I cannot see ‘junk’ on MY page because I’ve been over it too many times. Someone else’s, is a fresh pair of eyes. Go figure.

    I’m enjoying this themed A – Z.
    Tess Kann recently posted..Where Was I?My Profile

    Reply
    • “Too close” is undeniably common. I had an editor get her knickers in a twist after we had worked on a project for a few weeks. I asked for a new editor. She took it as a personal affront, when in earnest I wanted a new set of eyes who was blissfully unaware how much better what we had was from where we began. Occasionally, our eyes get caught in the shiny spot we polish, and we miss the tarnish right beside it. Great to see you today, Tess.

      Reply
  2. I have not written a book yet, although I have a number of them started. I guess I will get to them eventually. I did write a thesis for my degree last year and it was painful. It took almost a year to complete it all and the editing was done by a lady who was very picky. I learned a lot about word usage and APA formatting that I never wanted to learn. I learned to use better words that gave the picture without rambling on.

    It is such a process to go through. I did manage to get it done and survive the revisions. At one point I needed to cut out like 10 pages of information while still integrating all the data into the paper.
    Derek Mansker recently posted..This Money Is Not MineMy Profile

    Reply
    • Being succinct is not always as easy as people think. Frankly, I am not overly fond of writing in any of the accepted medical styles. The idea of formatting for attention guarantees portions of the text will be skipped, regardless of how informative, for the place where the reader has been trained to look for all which is believed important. Why bother writing all the rest of it?

      Reply
  3. Having survived the editing process with limbs and digits intact I have to admit I’m not looking forward to doing it again, but when needs must…

    Love and hugs!

    Prenin.
    Prenin recently posted..Friday – Quiet day.My Profile

    Reply
    • Which means you fared better than others. I have been known to amputate digits to reinforce lessons. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Hi Red, you have some sound advice here.. Having never been published I dare say any Editor would have a field day .. And I know I have often drafted posts and realised I repeated myself or used the same words over and over and have backtracked and altered…
    I have been told one day I will publish a book… Maybe! Maybe not!…. at the moment I have all on catching up with my followers and subscriptions.. I find it hard to just go into WP reader and just sit and click the Like buttons, I like to leave comments on what Ive enjoyed reading…
    I often wish however after clicking the publish button on my comments, there was a way to Edit them, LOL as often I read back seeing a typo error or grammar mistakes.. They are VERY common 🙂 ..
    Ok off to the previous post 🙂
    Sue Dreamwalker recently posted..My Creative Art~TreesMy Profile

    Reply
    • Fortunately, there are typo fairies here, Sue. I think you would do well to publish a book. You have an enormous amount to share. Glad you got a chance to stop by. <3 xxx

      Reply
  5. I have enjoyed this post Red, I guess that there must be hundreds of silly errors within a manuscript, grammatical and somewhat ridiculous ones too I would imagine?

    Hey have a lovely weekend and I must apologise for not calling into M3 very much lately, March was a busy month for me but hopefully April will be more fruitful on the blogging and reading front.

    Be wicked 🙂 xxx

    Reply
    • Glad to see you! If I had to guess, you have been glued to your racing screen. 😉 Indeed, there are loads of things which need to be touched up in a full manuscript. I will drop in and see what you have doing a bit later this evening.

      Reply
  6. So far, Red, everything you’ve covered is a must in getting onee’s book to the reader / shelf ready stage. Like Valentine, I must slow my pace, when reading to edit, otherwise I’ll just skip right over the ever present common mistakes.
    Any author who is so attached to their work that they become authorzillas when it comes to editing, should find a different career. Perhaps if they were to edit someone else’s work, they’d realize the import of editing!

    🙂
    BuddhaKat recently posted..F is for… FRACTAL DEFINEDMy Profile

    Reply
    • I have found those who are the authorzillas read others’ works and never see the mistakes. Immunity, perhaps? xxx

      Reply
  7. um…yes and I don’t know how many times and the funniest – well I am not so sure but I thought it was funny one of the MM iin my book (ebook fixed in print) seemed to slip under everyone’s radar myself included and has a few gaffes back to back… only one is like the turd in a punchbowl the others are sublte and I probably should have an editor for my comments and emails too…
    ♥ Lizzie
    Lizzie Cracked recently posted..A-Z Challenge; F is for Feminist Movement Mental MomentMy Profile

    Reply
    • When I invent the email/comment editor, I am going to give it away free. Everyone needs it. Everyone. ♥

      Reply
  8. Thanks Red,
    I have been told I’m quite ‘thick-skinned’ and I have a feeling I’m going to have to exercise that quality at this stage of the process.
    Oh well, it needs to be done.
    Phil recently posted..Matrimonial TestimonialsMy Profile

    Reply
    • Indeed. I loved RLB’s comment about considering editing removing all of the things which were not David from her masterpiece. Very healthy attitude.

      Reply
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